PORT HAWKESBURY: Over 117 people attended a surprise birthday celebration on October 7 for a well-known local carpenter and woodworker.
Mark Boudreau of Port Hawkesbury will celebrate his 80th birthday on November 13. Originally from Petit de Grat, Boudreau studied carpentry in North Sydney and worked on buildings in the Port Hawkesbury area for over four decades. His father was also a carpenter, and worked on a number of ships in the Strait area.
“I came to Port Hawkesbury and starting building in 1962 when the pulp mill opened,” said Boudreau.
Port Hawkesbury was expanding quickly at the time, and Boudreau built many homes for workers moving into the area. He also worked on buildings throughout Nova Scotia, including a fish plant in Petit de Grat that is no longer operating, as well as three convents throughout Cape Breton.
Over the years, Boudreau has used the materials left over from his carpentry work, such as juniper, birch, and apple wood to build everything from clocks to cutting boards. He has become well-known in the community for his intricate pieces. Some of his most labour-intensive projects have included his scale models of ships.
“When I was a kid growing up, my dad worked on these ships. When the weekend came along, one of the crew had to stay aboard to keep the boilers warm, and when it was my dad’s turn, me and my mother used to go with him and spend the weekend in Canso, Mulgrave or Arichat,” said Boudreau.
“I was only six or seven years old then. You’d have the whole ship to yourself, running all over the place, and you would get interested in it.”
Boudreau built his first model ship when he was 17 years old, and continued to build them throughout his career. All of his ships were built using blueprints from the original vessels, and he cast all of the components himself. His models have been on display in several museums including the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, The Railway Coastal Museum in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and the Port Hastings Museum in Port Hastings. Although many of his models have been purchased, he keeps some on display at his home. One of his models, the yacht S.S. O-WE-RA depicts a ship he remembers sailing in the Strait area.
“That ship was built in Leith, Scotland… for a rich American somewhere around the New York area. It was caught coming into New York during Prohibition and the government seized it. They were loaded with rum,” said Boudreau.
Boudreau said the ship was later purchased by a Sydney businessman, W.N. MacDonald, who owned a fleet of steam ships that sailed throughout Nova Scotia. He said his father worked on the ship in the 1930s.
“All of the ships have a good story,” said Boudreau.
Boudreau has also built a variety of musical instruments including a violin, acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, and several lap steel guitars. Many musicians have visited the Boudreau home and played the instruments, including fiddler Ashley MacIsaac.
Now that he is retired from carpentry, Boudreau still works on various smaller projects in his workshop behind his home, including clocks and small furniture items. He has passed his love of woodworking to his son Garnet, who took over the carpentry business when Boudreau retired.
“He pretty well learned it all from me and now he’s doing the same thing I was doing,” said Boudreau.
Boudreau expressed appreciation to friends and family members who travelled to help celebrate his 80th birthday, as well as everyone who has supported his work over the years.